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Why Galatzan Opposed End to “Willful Defiance” Suspensions

Hillel Aron | May 23, 2013

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Board Member Galatzan doesn’t believe that ending the “willful defiance” category will have a large impact

Though it seems like ages ago, it was actually just last week that the School Board voted, 5-2, to revise LAUSD’s discipline policy.

The move, among other things, means that LAUSD schools will no longer be able to suspend kids for a catch-all category of misbehavior called “willful defiance.”

While the move was lauded by student advocates and others who believe that schools were overusing suspensions, the two dissenting votes at the Board meeting — from Marguerite Lamotte and Tamar Galatzan — arose out of concerns about classroom and school discipline and whether the move will make things any better.

Galatzan cast her vote without comment or explanation, but she recently explained her reasoning to LA School Report.

“I think that limiting the options for schools to deal with students who don’t listen, disrupt the class, don’t what to be there — it’s sending the wrong message, and it’s not fair to students who are there to learn,” said Galatzan.

“I also don’t think it’s gonna matter much. If a school wants to suspend the student, they’ll just do it for something else. But it sends the wrong message to parents and teachers.”

Galatzan also brought up the example of Garfield High School, which practically stopped suspending students altogether, and has frequently been cited as a model for where the district as a whole should be going.

“It’s very progressive, and I think that’s wonderful,” she said. “But not all the schools have the resources that Garfield has in order to deal with students who are exhibiting this kind of behavior. Until you’re going to give the schools the same kind of staffing levels to handle this, that’s just very unfair.”

Guess who else was against ending suspensions for willful defiance across the board? Governor Jerry Brown, who vetoed a bill in Sacramento that would have ended the practice all across the state.

“I cannot support limiting the authority of local school leaders, especially at a time when budget cuts have greatly increased class sizes and reduced the number of school personnel,” said Governor Brown.  “The principle of subsidiarity calls for greater, not less, deference to our elected school boards which are directly accountable to the citizenry.”

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